NEW DELHI: External affairs minister S Jaishankar is expected to make a brief visit to Russia on November 8 for a meeting with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov amid growing global concerns about an escalation in the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a news briefing in Moscow on Thursday that Lavrov will hold talks with Jaishankar next month and discuss the “current state of bilateral relations and the international agenda”. Zakharova didn’t give further details.

There was no official word from the Indian side regarding the visit, though people familiar with the matter said Jaishankar’s trip is expected to be brief and include meetings with Lavrov and other key Russian officials.

The development comes at a time when speculation has grown about the two countries not holding their annual summit this year. There has been no word from both sides about the summit, which was to be hosted by Russia in 2022.

The people cited above noted that Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi met on the margins of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Uzbekistan in mid-September, and are also expected to meet again on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, in November, provided the Russian leader decides to attend the meeting of the world’s 20 largest economies.

Putin made a rare visit abroad following the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when he travelled to India in December last year for the annual summit. Lavrov travelled to India in April amid a flurry of visits by foreign leaders in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

India has refrained from publicly criticising the Russian invasion and abstained on most votes and resolutions related to the Ukraine conflict at UN bodies such as the Security Council. It has called for respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states even as it took up Russia’s offer of discounted commodities, especially crude oil.

When Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu made a phone call to his Indian counterpart Rajnath Singh to discuss Moscow’s concerns about Kyiv using a “dirty bomb”, Singh made it clear no side should resort to the nuclear option and that a solution must be found through dialogue and diplomacy.

By Shadab

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